Irvine’s Best Bus Service Starts Soon. And It’s Free!

The City is about to launch a new free shuttle service named “City Link”, originally called Yale-Barranca. It will traverse mainly along Yale Avenue and Barranca Parkway and will connect many residential areas with commercial centers, schools, health care, the Irvine Spectrum, and the Irvine Train Station which offers Metrolink and Amtrak regional rail transit.

This bus service is part of the larger Transit Vision Study, a consultant plan for potential future expansion of public transit lines within the City.

The bus service will operate on a 20-minute frequency, making it Irvine’s most reliable bus service to date. Most OCTA bus service in Irvine runs anywhere between 30-60 minute frequencies. Frequency is a critical factor for enticing residents to opt to ride transit so transit schedules accommodate their schedules as opposed to making personal schedules accommodate transit.

The cost to ride the service is free to all residents.

The service will operate:
Weekdays: 6 AM – 8 PM
Weekends: 8 AM – 10 PM

It will connect to Northwood, Deerfield, Woodbridge, and the Greater Irvine Spectrum. City Link will connect residents to the following major destinations in Irvine mapped below:The service has seen several delays in launching due to complications with changing standards for ADA compliance for newly constructed bus stops (not bus shelters). ADA mandates certain sidewalk grade for wheelchair users, etc. to be able to mount onto the bus safely, and ensure sufficient sidewalk width to allow for adequate passing of pedestrians on the sidewalk, among other things. The new launch date as of the writing of this article is estimated to be sometime in April 2024.

iShuttle ridership correlates to office occupancy, with ridership today at roughly half of pre-COVID levels. iShuttle Routes A and B continue to operate. iShuttle route F was canceled in July 2022 and iShuttle Route C was terminated in August 2023 by the City Council due to low ridership post-pandemic. Capital Group primarily funded Route C, which never returned to the office full-time. CityLink results from repurposed resources away from the underperforming iShuttle C route.The City will be moving away from the traditional model that is limited to first-last mile connection to offices which is becoming a less viable model for transit in a post-pandemic world. This shuttle service is a first attempt at a more residential focus that will connect neighborhoods to commercial, schools, regional transit, and healthcare.

iShuttle is funded largely through funding from OCTA that was allocated originally to Irvine as part of the CenterLine regional light-rail initiative in the early 2000s but The City of Irvine
and OCTA reached a deal to repurpose that money towards a smaller-scale first-last mile commuter service in the mid 2000s. The CenterLine referendum was narrowly rejected in a 2003 special election voter referendum with a turnout rate of 22.6% and was defeated by roughly 2%.See staff presentation to Transportation Commission here.